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Data Nirvana: Power Pivot, OData, and Acumatica ERP

Guest Post By: Tim Rodman

There is finally an ERP product that gets it, that embraces Power Pivot, Power BI, and the more than 800 million users of Microsoft Excel.

“What Power Pivot did to Excel, Acumatica is doing to the world of ERP”.

Acumatica recently announced the ability to securely connect to Acumatica ERP data through OData

This is huge. It’s as if two worlds are colliding, creating a good kind of explosion.


You: “So, wait a second, what is ERP?”

Me: “Great question, I should probably back up for a minute.”

What is ERP

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and it is the computer system that ties all of the departments in your organization together.

If you work with Power Pivot, there is a very good chance that you also work with ERP data.
SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, Epicor, Sage, and NetSuite are all examples of ERP systems.

Many of the ERP systems in companies today are very old and very ugly. The problem is that they are expensive to replace so they continue to exist through a patchwork of duct tape fixes that have been cobbled together over the years.

However, ERP systems contain a virtual Fort Knox of data that can lead to incredible insights if analyzed correctly (with Power Pivot of course).

The ERP Problem

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Can PowerPivot Pros Call Themselves Data Scientists? Part 2: Finding a Balance Between “Yes” and “No”


“Go.  Go find the balance…  Banzai, Daniel-san!  Banzai!”

-Mr. Miyagi

So… Are We Data Scientists or What?

On Tuesday I introduced the notion of a Data Scientist – it’s a hot new field, there’s a huge shortage of qualified people, and maybe PowerPivot gives us a shot at some of the action.

So…  are we Data Scientists?  Are we allowed in their hip new club? 


Being Careful:  Things We Are Not

In our quest for broader horizons and appreciation, Excel Pros need to be careful – if we overdo it, we may look silly.  So first let’s cover a few things that we don’t do, and make sure we don’t advertise ourselves as such – because to many people, “Data Scientist” implies these things.

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Can PowerPivot Pros Call Themselves Data Scientists?

Data Science is HOT

Let’s start with a couple of screens from the web, and note that every picture in this post will take you to the original article if you click it:

Can PowerPivot Pros Call Themselves Data Scientists?

“Harvard,” “Data,” and “Sexiest” All in One Place!
(The Mayan Prophesy for 2012 Comes True)

Data Science PowerPivot New Black Tim O'Reilly


Tim O’Reilly Would Never Say That Excel is the New Black.  Or Would He?

And There’s a Huge Shortage of Data Scientists!

This is the part where any career-minded Excel Pro (me! me!) should sit up and take notice:

McKinsey report on data scientist shortage


A Shortage of 1.5 Million Managers and Analysts in the US Alone?

Facebook advertised a data scientist job to me on...  my Facebook pageThe original Harvard Business Review article at the top of this post also had this to say later on:


“Indeed, the shortage of data scientists is becoming a serious constraint in some sectors.”

– From the HBR Article

The way I see it, shortage for them could mean opportunity for us.

“OK, I’m Interested.  But What IS a Data Scientist?”

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Big Data is Just Data, Why Excel “Sucks”, and 1,000 Miles of Data


***UPDATE:  Slides uploaded here.


One of My Slides From Last Night – Equally Relevant to Excel, BI, DB, and Big Data Pros

Had a great time last night at the NYC MSBIgData group.  I’ve never spoken to a group quite like last night’s, but I struggle to explain how they were different.  It’s easier to explain what they were not.  Even though the user group is a Big Data and BI user group, they were not a Hive/Hadoop crowd, which shouldn’t have surprised me – there aren’t enough Hive/Hadoop people in the world to really have crowds of them laying around, at least not yet.

But there also wasn’t critical mass of seemingly any other discipline – not BI, not Excel, not DBA, not SharePoint, not programmer.  There were some people from each of those backgrounds but no more than 10% of each.

I think my best assessment is that they were simply a group of people who DO things.  A very pragmatic collection of flexible people.  People who happily use different tools to solve different problems.  I find that fascinating all on its own.

(If you were at last night’s talk, please replace every instance of the word “they” above with the word “you.” Smile)

Big Data is Just Data, and Hadoop is Just a Way to Store Lots of It

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Do You “Savvy” Big Data?


(The use of this word as a verb was my favorite part of those movies –
use it sparingly to liven up informal meetings!)

What Counts as Big Data?

We recently received some advice, from some very smart and well-connected people, that we should be using the term “Big Data” in our marketing.  After all, it’s a hot term.  But sophisticated sources of advice like the one in question aren’t slaves to what’s hot.  They are shrewd followers of what everyone ELSE thinks is hot.  And when these people say “use this term,” they don’t do so lightly.

Now, some of the PowerPivot models we build at Pivotstream have hundreds of millions of rows of data in them.  By any reasonable metric, that is big.  And when you consider that PowerPivot is a free extension to Excel, the world’s most popular analytics and reporting tool, PowerPivot may already be the world’s most ubiquitous Big Data tool.

So I think we qualify to use the term.  But most of our Cloud PowerPivot customers, at least so far, aren’t using nearly that volume of data.  Tens of thousands of rows is much more the norm, which is something Excel has always “done.”

So while a marketing mind sees “hot term” and immediately begins throwing it around like candy, a more analytical type of guy like me wants to make his peace with it first.

Some of my conclusions lead me to believe that YOU in fact may already be doing a flavor of big data, and could fairly lay claim to it.  Join me on my journey 🙂

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